Westminster Column - Private Members Bill

17th January 2020

In rather exciting news, for me at least, for the first time since elected in 2005 I have been successful in the ballot of MPs for a Private Members Bill. This means I shall be one of the first 20 MPs to introduce a Private Members’ Bill (PMB) in this Parliament. This is a Bill not introduced by government, as it says on the label, but still aims to change the law, on a subject of my choice this session.

It is a rare opportunity, given there are 650 MPs and all except Ministers are able to enter each ballot. Usually, the top 7 MPs drawn by ballot get the opportunity for their Bill to be heard first for a Second Reading on a Friday when the House of Commons sits to consider PMBs. This is a procedural way of saying the top 7 PMBs have a much better opportunity of passing, and becoming law. Having been drawn in 7th place, I have just scraped over the line!

Parliamentary time is precious. So there are often worthy proposals for a change in the law that do not make it on to the statute book.

For example, my former colleague and Parliamentary neighbour for Montgomery, Glyn Davies, tried in the last Parliament to pass a Private Members Bill that would extend the right to vote for British citizens living overseas, regardless of how long they have lived abroad – something I have long supported. Unfortunately, the parliamentary arithmetic of the 2017-19 Parliament meant the Bill did not pass.

The best means of getting a Private Members Bill into law is to propose legislation the government can be persuaded to support. So that is what I intend to do, since I believe it would be a wasted opportunity to propose a change in the law with no chance of passing.

I have until early February to decide what measure to pursue, and while it is likely to focus on health or the environment, I have not yet made up my mind. I have been offered suggestions by many organisations, charities and pressure groups. But I would also welcome ideas from constituents - so please do let me know if you have an idea by emailing philip.dunne.mp@parliament.uk.

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